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Kainate receptors and signal integration by NG2 glial cells

  • Maria Kukley (a1) and Dirk Dietrich (a1)


It is well established that NG2 cells throughout the young and adult brain consistently detect the release of single vesicles filled with glutamate from nearby axons. The released neurotransmitter glutamate electrically excites NG2 cells via non-NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartic acid) glutamate receptors but the individual contribution of AMPA and kainate receptors to neuron-NG2 cell signalling, is not well understood. Here we pharmacologically block AMPA-type glutamate receptors and investigate whether hippocampal NG2 cells also express the kainate subtype of glutamate receptors and what may be their contribution to synaptic connectivity. It has been shown previously that vesicular glutamate release does not lead to a detectable activation of kainate receptors on NG2 cells. Here we report that while bath application of 250 nM–1 μM kainate does not have a major effect on NG2 cells it consistently induces a small and persistent depolarising current. This current was not mimicked by ATPA, suggesting that this current is carried by non-GluR5 containing kainate receptors. In addition to this inward current, nanomolar concentrations of kainate also produced a dramatic increase in the frequency of spontaneous GABA-A receptor-mediated synaptic currents (IPSCs) in NG2 cells. This increase in spontaneous IPSC frequency was even more pronounced on application of the GluR5-specific agonist ATPA (approximately 15-fold increase in frequency). In contrast, mono-synaptic stimulated IPSCs recorded in NG2 cells were unaffected by kainate receptor activation. Those and further experiments show that the occurrence of the high frequency of IPSCs is due to action potential firing of hippocampal interneurons caused by activation of GluR5 receptors on the somatodendritic membrane of the interneurons. Our data suggest that hippocampal kainate receptors are not only important for communication between neurons but may also play a dual and subtype-specific role for neuron–glia signalling: Firstly, extra-synaptic non-GluR5 kainate receptors in the membrane of NG2 cells are ideally suited to instruct NG2 cells on the population activity of local excitatory neurons via ambient glutamate. Secondly, based on the known importance of GluR5 receptors on hippocampal interneurons for the generation of network rhythms and based on our finding that these interneurons heavily project onto NG2 cells, it appears that synaptic activation of interneuronal GluR5 receptors triggers signalling to NG2 cells which transmits the phase and frequency of ongoing network oscillations in the developing hippocampus.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Dirk Dietrich, Department of Neurosurgery, NCH U1 R035, Experimental Neurophysiology University Clinic Bonn, Sigmund-Freud Street 25, D-53105 Bonn, Germany phone: (49) 228 287 1 9224 fax: (49) 228 287 1 1718 email:


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Kainate receptors and signal integration by NG2 glial cells

  • Maria Kukley (a1) and Dirk Dietrich (a1)


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